Volunteer for Transformation – a Message of Hope From Patricia Knox
For 4 years I have been a volunteer at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in the Oakdale Prison Community Choir. In the winter of 2009 I took the basic workshop offered by the Alternatives to Violence Project that was being facilitated at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility in Iowa. That program no longer exists at Mt. Pleasant due to lack of outside facilitators.
In 2010, 3 outside facilitators and 1 inmate (insider) with AVP experience started offering AVP at the the prison in Coralville. There are over a dozen inside facilitators at IMCC now and long waiting lists of incarcerated men wanting to participate in workshops. Currently, 5 regular outside facilitators, 2 special extras, plus all of the inside facilitators, keep this program running AVP workshops every month of the year.
Another facilitator and I toured the Johnson County jail recently. Along with facilitating AVP, she is a mediator in both Johnson and Linn County courts systems, as is another of our facilitators.
During our tour of JC Jail, we sensed a philosophical difference between the two institutions, particularly in the treatment of inmates. The difference we perceived is not just a matter of the additional space at IMCC available for volunteer programs, a garden, exercise yard, as well as more job opportunities for inmates at IMCC; it is the spirit of the volunteer programs peopled by inmates (e.g. hospice) as well as community volunteers. Among the programs currently active at IMCC are the Oakdale Community Choir, Alternatives to Violence Project, Hubbub Job Club, Writers Workshop, Song Writers Workshop, Incarcerated Vets, AA, New Directions, GED tutoring, to name a few. The philosophy behind these programs is social rehabilitation, an important contrast to the punitive motivation for incarceration. We have found the IMCC Warden and his staff to be exceptional people interested in meaningful educational opportunities for the incarcerated people at Oakdale.
You, community volunteers, can drive change if you take the opportunity to go into the jail and start programs similar to those that have been available at IMCC. It should not be left only to government officials and prison staff to determine what treatment and facilities are allotted to volunteers and what constitutes healthy treatment of people who are incarcerated. Folks, these are your grandfathers, brothers, sister-in-laws, children and cousins. To have a healthy society, you need to care ( thank your lucky stars if you did not suffer abuse when you were growing up ) and volunteer for transformation.
Thank you, Patricia Knox
(edited from an earlier version)
Patricia L. Knox, Alternatives to Violence Project, Oakdale Community Choir
- Mary Trachsel, Writer’s Workshop, Oakdale Community Choir
- Mary L. Cohen, Director Oakdale Community Choir, Songwriters’ Workshop
- Marian Klostermann, OSF, Alternatives to Violence Project